Martial Arts Blogs A Journey to Shodan: October 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Shotokan resolution.

Some months ago, after mental blocking on a few katas during class, I decided that the only way I was going to really build them into my body memory was by practicing each kata once every morning. I envisioned myself soaring through kata, never stumbling, finally doing them with confidence and feeling, beginning to end, no mistakes - I would practice my heart out and reap the benefits. This sure sounded like a good idea at the time. Actually, it was a good idea, but have I done it? No. Well, I did a few times but then my early morning enthusiasm faltered. I liken it to a new years resolution; one has high hopes and all the heart in the world – for the first two or three weeks.

This utter resolution failure came to light last night when I had a mental block during Bassai Dai and Jion, both katas I know well. Or so I thought. As I stood there wondering what the heck comes next, I thought to myself – if only I’d stuck to my resolution and practiced my kata once every morning, I wouldn’t be in this position now. I hate that feeling, standing clueless in the middle of a kata - I get disappointed in myself and extremely frustrated. I was able to finish each kata on my own, after everyone else had finished, but you can bet your last dollar I went home and repeated each of those kata until I worked past my blocks. As it turns out, I was inventing a new kata: Bassai...Nidan. What???

This got me thinking: how does one stay committed to a resolution? What it really comes down to is self-discipline, so it's all up to me. I'll have to work through my excuses, the main one being that I don't have enough time...if I'm serious, I'll make the time.

So - I have two new resolutions:
  1. Arrive to class early enough to practice two kata of my choice, on my own.
  2. I will practice each kata once on Saturday and Sunday morning (caveat: morning = after I get up, if that happens to be noon, well then, that’s when I’ll do them).
I'll report back in a few weeks.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Notebook.

One of the many things I have learned about myself in my years of Karate training is that I learn through repetition. Doing specific moves over and over to build them into my cell memory seems to be the only way I am able to retain information. If I only do something two or three times, forget it. Literally.

Take bunkai for example. Everyone on the team has a part to play, and those parts come and go quickly which doesn’t really afford time to embed them into ones memory. If you practice one section over and over, the rest of the team is left waiting, so generally sections aren’t repeated more than three times before moving on. For me personally, by next class I won’t recall what my specific movements were, and if you mess up in bunkai, you risk taking a shot square in the face. Enter – the notebook.

At first I was shy about bringing my notebook along with me to our bunkai training sessions. Instead I would excuse myself, take my notebook out of my gym bag and write feverishly before I forgot what I just did. When that became inconvenient, I brought the notebook with me and left it nearby to jot things down as necessary. People would tease me for using it, others wondered what the heck I was doing, and one of my Sensei's once threatened to burn it.
The truth is, that notebook got me through my first bunkai group last April. I could reference my notes, practice my sections at home, and arrive to the next class prepared. I didn't have to re-learn everything the next time our group met.

Being on two teams now for a December grading brings the pressure of remembering four different bunkai, but this time, I'm not shy about bringing my notebook. I've learned its value and apparently so have others. Now, when the team forgets what we did last week, they are actually asking me what the notebook says.

These days, I don't go to class without it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A new approach.

With another promotion night looming in the near future, I find myself once again thinking of all the things I need to focus on – basics, kata, timing, technique, stances, and posture to name only a few.

This time however, I’ve decided to approach the grading differently – dare I say – with confidence. Not an arrogant confidence, but through the simple act of believing in myself. It is time to put self-doubt aside and enjoy the journey. I know my list of requirements; I’ve trained them repeatedly. I know there are things I need to work on, and I do. Every time I take class I learn something new and finesse my technique, so my skills are constantly evolving. So too should my strength of mind.

Now, lets see if this works.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The common purpose.

Every time I attend class, I am reminded that each student (including myself) learns at a different pace and excels in a different area. Where one person performs Kata with fierce determination, another will routinely land an admirable front stance. In short, each student brings his or her own unique quality to the Dojo.

Gender aside, first and foremost I am a Karateka. I am dedicated, I focus my energy, and train with passion every time I enter the Dojo. This is my journey and my motivation is to better myself, not to be better than anyone else. I believe we are all training in a sport we mutually enjoy, and we should afford each other the respect we deserve for simply being there.

Next time you enter your Dojo, take a moment to look around and appreciate that everyone, regardless of their gender, age or physical ability, is there for one common purpose.